Peru is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Peruvian men, women, and children are exploited in forced labor within the country, principally in informal gold mining and related services, logging, agriculture, and domestic service. Research conducted during the reporting period found various forced labor indicators among Peruvians working in artisanal gold mines, including deceptive recruitment, debt bondage, restricted freedom of movement or inability to leave, withholding of or nonpayment of wages, and menace and use of physical violence. Peruvian women and girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are exploited in sex trafficking in Peru’s urban areas and mining centers, often recruited through deceptive employment offers. Women and girls exploited near mining communities are often indebted due to the cost of transportation, and unable to leave due to remoteness of camps and complicity of miners in their exploitation; many are forced to consume alcohol with clients. Forced child begging remained a problem in urban areas. Peruvian authorities continued to identify an increasing number of children involved in illicit activities, including in cocaine production and transportation, and some of these children are coerced or forced to participate in these illegal enterprises. There are continued reports that the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, recruited children and adults to serve as combatants and in the illicit narcotics trade. To a lesser extent, Peruvian women and children are found in forced prostitution in Ecuador and Argentina, and men, women, and children are found in forced labor in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, and the United States, among other countries. Peru also is a destination country for foreign female trafficking victims from other South American countries including Bolivia in conditions of forced labor. Child sex tourism is present in areas such as Cuzco, Lima, and the Peruvian Amazon.
The Government of Peru does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The anti-trafficking police unit continued to identify a large number of potential victims and the public ministry’s victim assistance program provided 140 trafficking victims with services, including psychological and legal support. A new law passed during the year requires the government to report annually to Congress on progress in fighting trafficking. Regional governments formed anti-trafficking commissions, some of which approved anti-trafficking plans. In spite of the existence of forced labor in various sectors, there appeared to be no proactive efforts to prosecute forced labor cases, and efforts to identify and assist forced labor victims were weak. Given the large number of victims identified during the year, the low number of trafficking defendants convicted was of particular concern. Trafficking-related complicity among officials remained a serious concern; in one high-profile sex trafficking case prosecutors allegedly accepted bribes from trafficking defendants to interfere with the trial. Government funding for victim services continued to be inadequate, particularly for adults, and officials did not report referring the majority of identified victims to care services. There were no dedicated shelters for trafficking victims. The lack of shelters left victims vulnerable to revictimization and some child victims were housed in police stations.
Recommendations for Peru: Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, especially for forced labor crimes; fund dedicated shelters and specialized services for all victims of trafficking, including adults, or provide funding to NGOs with capacity to provide these services; initiate proactive investigations of forced labor crimes through enhanced partnerships between law enforcement officials, labor officials, and civil society organizations; create and implement formal victim identification and referral mechanisms; ensure that law enforcement officials conduct intelligence-based raids and employ effective victim screening during operations; hold corrupt officials who facilitate trafficking activities accountable through criminal investigations and prosecutions; increase funding for resources and training for specialized anti-trafficking police and prosecutorial units; and improve data collection on trafficking crimes.
The Government of Peru investigated trafficking crimes during the year, but convictions were low in comparison to the number of victims identified and efforts to prosecute and convict forced labor offenders were inadequate. Peruvian law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, prescribing penalties of eight to 25 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Despite guidance from the judicial branch, some investigators, prosecutors, and judges classified trafficking cases as less serious criminal offenses and prescribed lower penalties. The anti-trafficking police division was based in the capital, with a smaller unit in Iquitos; the division’s effectiveness, particularly outside the capital, was hampered by limited resources. Most law enforcement operations focused on sex trafficking, and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for forced labor remained disproportionately low. In some parts of the country, lack of government presence and officials’ fear of retaliation from trafficking offenders prevented them from investigating reported cases of forced labor or forced prostitution. Data collection suffered a setback during the year, as police did not use an existing electronic case database to track human trafficking investigations. Law enforcement officials continued to conflate prostitution and sex trafficking. There were no dedicated prosecutors for trafficking cases, and police and prosecutors continued to suffer from a lack of coordination with each other.
In 2012, the police investigated 215 potential trafficking cases in the capital and the surrounding region. The government initiated 113 new prosecutions. The government did not report the number of trafficking offenders convicted in 2012, but prison statistics indicated that at the end of 2012 there were nine more individuals incarcerated after being convicted of human trafficking in comparison with 2011. Information was not available about the range of prison sentences given, although one press report indicated that a convicted sex trafficking offender was sentenced to four years and six months’ imprisonment. In 2011, the government reported convicting four sex trafficking offenders and one forced labor offender.
Tolerance by and corruption of officials facilitated trafficking in certain instances. Some officials permitted the operation of unlicensed brothels and the commercial sexual exploitation of children; during the year, six police officers were accused of extorting nightclub owners using the threat of sex trafficking charges. Civil society organizations reported that some officials’ involvement in the mining industry resulted in a conflict of interest in terms of taking law enforcement action against sex trafficking in mining areas. In a high-profile case, officials in Piura suspended two prosecutors for 30 days for accepting money to interfere with the prosecution of an alleged trafficker; although authorities continue to investigate these prosecutors, the accused trafficking offenders that allegedly bribed the prosecutors were acquitted in January 2013. There were no reported prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking in 2012. In partnership with civil society organizations and often with international organization and foreign government funding, the government provided anti-trafficking training to police, prosecutors, and other officials.
The Peruvian government provided inadequate services to trafficking victims during the year, and the lack of specialized shelters remained a challenge. Authorities did not develop or employ systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and law enforcement had a limited ability to distinguish between people engaged in prostitution and sex trafficking victims. The government did not maintain comprehensive victim identification statistics. Law enforcement officials reported identifying 518 potential trafficking victims in the city and region of Lima in 2012, including 446 adults and 72 children. This number appears to include a significant number of adult women in prostitution who were not trafficking victims. Eleven children identified during a raid on a Shining Path camp were referred to government shelters for vulnerable children. Of the 11 adults also identified during the raid, all of whom were determined to have been kidnapped or forcibly recruited to work for the Shining Path, only three received services from the government—these three were provided victim witness protection by the state.
The government had no formal process for referring trafficking victims to services, and it was unclear how many total victims received services, including shelter. Civil society organizations provided most specialized services to victims without government funding, and specialized psychological, legal, and other services remained unavailable in many parts of the country, particularly for adults. The public ministry’s national program for assistance to victims and witnesses reported assisting 140 trafficking victims in total, including 65 labor trafficking victims, 69 sex trafficking victims, and six victims of both labor and sex trafficking. Of these 140 victims, 79 were children and 61 were adults; 107 received psychological assistance, 95 received legal services, and 85 received social services. Of those victims receiving social services, 49 were referred to shelters, 20 were referred to medical services, and only seven were referred to reintegration services. Police reported returning to their parents the majority of child victims identified in Lima in 2012 and referring an additional 18 child victims to government-run shelters for vulnerable children. Two government-funded shelters for girl victims of sexual exploitation could shelter child sex trafficking victims, though they were not equipped to provide specialized care for victims of trafficking. Other government-run general shelters for vulnerable children lacked basic infrastructure, including space to house victims. Likewise, government-run emergency centers for women provided no specialized services to trafficking victims and no shelter, but reported assisting 34 trafficking victims during the year. The Peruvian national police were responsible for temporarily housing victims after raids; in some cases, however, child victims remained at police stations in “preventative centers” for months if shelters lacked available beds. In some cases, police or prosecutors used their own personal money to help victims due to a lack of victim services. Specialized services for male victims were virtually non-existent, and while authorities reported paying for repatriation of Peruvian victims exploited abroad, funding for reintegration and other services was lacking.
Victim participation in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers remained limited. NGOs noted that victims received inadequate protection and assistance during the legal process, and one victim under the witness protection program was reportedly unable to come and go at will or pursue gainful employment. Some police, prosecutors, and judges did not sufficiently protect the privacy of trafficking victims. The government did not, however, penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Foreign trafficking victims were eligible for temporary and permanent residency status under Peruvian refugee law, though there were no reports of victims requesting or receiving this status during the year.
The Government of Peru maintained its prevention efforts, including by supporting regional-level anti-trafficking working groups and action plans. The government’s interagency committee, which also included civil society actors, continued to receive limited funds to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts. However, most government entities lacked adequate funding to implement their responsibilities as outlined in the national anti-trafficking action plan. NGOs and officials alike reported that the committee suffered from a lack of commitment on the part of some participating ministries and was ineffective. The government passed a law requiring annual reports to Congress on anti-trafficking efforts, including efforts to implement the action plan. Authorities conducted some awareness raising efforts, often in partnership with civil society organizations. Several regional governments maintained anti-trafficking working groups or worked on regional anti-trafficking plans, some of which were launched during the year. In an effort to prevent forced labor, the labor ministry provided training for staff at government-run job search centers on how to identify fraudulent job offers. During the reporting period, Peruvian authorities trained tourist service providers on preventing child sex tourism and investigated potential cases. Authorities reported no prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists in 2012. The government provided Peruvian peacekeepers training on human trafficking prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.